I figured at the time I would reveal what brewery occupied that number one spot in fairly short order, but as the saying goes, stuff happens. Thankfully for me and you the reader, that distinction still exists with the same entity, Rockmill Brewery, which is nestled in the hills surrounding a town established by well-traveled Colonel Ebenezer Zane back in 1800.
You typically can't see much from the winding country road as you approach this brewery, save maybe for the sign indicating you've reached your destination (majorly helpful advice: check their Facebook page to make sure the brewery is not closed for a private event; trust us, we know.) Once you pull in, however, you start garnering the pastoral beauty that imbues the brewery property.
As the story goes, Barbee was a certified oenophile while growing up, with thoughts of following his grandfather's footsteps as a vintner. He did not particularly enjoy beer, mainly because he felt it lacked that quality to enhance your dining experience. Then came one momentous night in Venice, California, when Barbee had a transcendent experience with a bottle of the saison by French brewer Brasserie Dupont.
From there, a passion to learn about and then brew Belgian and French-style farmhouse ales was born and pursued. It may have sounded crazy to set up an enterprise in the middle of the Ohio countryside as Barbee did at his mother's property, a former horse farm. However, that turned into a sense of destiny when the waters of the nearby Hocking River were tested for their brewing suitability. As it turned out, the mineral content of the water turned out to be for all intents and purposes a match of the water used at Dupont.
Of course, acquiring one of Rockmill's brews is primary on the to-do scale (the brewery participates in the Columbus Ale Trail) when you enter their main space, but the sizable interior of this chalet-style building tempts you immediately to seek out what seem to be numerous nooks and crannies.
And yes, there are many of these nooks to be found, with many of them sporting artwork and other media that reminds you of what this land was once used for...
And still more crannies...
And even more after that. But be wary of where you may step or sit; unbeknownst to you, one of the resident brewery cats may be nearby...
or even ready to grab a quick snooze.
You could choose to stay inside with your brews of choice (we have especially enjoyed their Cask Aged Tripel, the rye-based They Ran In The Fields, and their winter-oriented and organic Saison Supér) but if the weather is at all decent, you should venture outside and explore the grounds.
By the time you wander down to the small pond at the center of the grounds, the chalet-like building seems well off in the distance. As one will learn, Rockmill works well for families, especially for those with kids who like to run free and explore the outdoors.
Wander farther down, and one can find the source of the brewery's water in the Hocking River. While this tributary may barely be 100 miles long in length, the view downriver gives you the impression that the trip would be the most lovely canoe-based century you could ever embark on.
Wander off into the wooded area just a bit, and you'll spy the tiny church, which has held more than its fair share of of marriages. While I'm sure it must be the completely lovely on wedding days, there's a certain serenity to wandering in and around this tiny space when empty.
After years of efforts to do so, Rockmill has begun serving food out at the brewery, via special beer dinners and some barbecue-styled events (for a gander of what Rockmill can really do with a true dine-in experience, check out the blog post by my blogging colleague Breakfast With Nick on their very well received Brewery District eatery Rockmill Tavern.)
But for me, Rockmill has been and still remains the consummate picnic spot, where you pair up the brewery's Belgian and farmhouse style ales with a some charcuterie and fresh-baked bread and crackers. Match that picnic meal with a special loved one, or maybe some close friends or family, in tow and settle down on a sun-drenched spot on the brewery's grounds. Heck, you might even find some strangers from out of town, as we did one visit, who were gracious enough to share their spread and trade stories for several dozen minutes or so.
And then, relax. Enjoy. Soak in the sun, invest in the quiet, and forget about life's troubles, if even for just an hour or two. And smile. It's quite easy to do at this former horse farm in the middle of the Ohio countryside, with brews inspired by Belgium and France by way of the Hocking.
5705 Lithopolis Rd NW
Lancaster, OH 43130
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